Föhrenbergkreis Finanzwirtschaft

Unkonventionelle Lösungen für eine zukunftsfähige Gesellschaft

Posts Tagged ‘DeLong’

Self-Fulfilling Financial Crises

Posted by hkarner - 16. Oktober 2018

J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

Many mistaken assumptions about the 2008 financial crisis remain in circulation. As long as policymakers believe the crisis was rooted in the housing bubble rather than human psychology, another crisis will be inevitable.

BERKELEY – The 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession left the Global North 10% poorer than it otherwise would have been, based on 2005 forecasts. For those hoping to understand this episode better, I have long recommended four books, in particular: Manias, Panics, and Crashes, by the twentieth-century economist Charles P. Kindleberger; This Time Is Different, by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff of Harvard University; The Shifts and the Shocks, by the Financial Times economics commentator Martin Wolf; and Hall of Mirrors, by my University of California, Berkeley, colleague Barry Eichengreen.

Now, I want to add a fifth book to the list: A Crisis of Beliefs: Investor Psychology and Financial Fragility, by the economists Nicola Gennaioli and Andrei Shleifer. (Full disclosure: Shleifer was my roommate in college and graduate school; to this day, I credit him with whatever positive skills or reputation I may have.)

A Crisis of Beliefs is important for three reasons. First, it offers a welcome rejoinder to those who argue that the past decade was an unavoidable result of the housing bubble in the United States. Many experts still claim that the bubble’s deflation triggered the financial crisis. But the fact is that the bubble had already deflated substantially before the crisis erupted.

Recall that by mid-2008, home prices had returned to, or even fallen below, levels supported by their underlying fundamentals, and employment and production in the residential construction industry had declined to levels far below trend. The work of rebalancing asset valuations and reallocating economic resources across sectors had already been accomplished.

To be sure, there still would have been around $750 billion worth of financial-asset losses in the form of defaults on subprime mortgages and home-equity loans. But that is only one-quarter of what global equity markets lost in seven hours on October 19, 1987. In other words, it would not have been enough to sink the global financial system. Ben Bernanke, then Chair of the US Federal Reserve, seemed confident in the summer of 2008 that the correction in housing prices had not triggered any unmanageable financial crisis. At the time, he was mainly focused on the dangers of rising inflation.

And then the bottom fell out. The reason, Gennaioli and Shleifer show, is that beliefs changed. Investors came to believe that financial markets were saddled with highly elevated risk, owing to a number of factors. The interbank market had seized up, homeowners were defaulting on their mortgages, Bear Stearns had collapsed, the US Treasury had intervened to rein in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and, above all, Lehman Brothers had declared bankruptcy.

All of this led to the sudden run on both the shadow and non-shadow banking systems, as investors scrambled to dump assets. The increased risk that they had imputed to the system became a reality. Like triage nurses in an emergency room, they quickly assessed the patient and then ran with their initial diagnosis as if there were no other option.

And yet nothing about the fallout from the crisis was inevitable. Had the Fed been in possession of contingency plans for putting too-big-to-fail institutions into receivership and becoming the risk-bearer of last resort, we would probably be living in a very different world today. Unlike those who look back and conclude that it was all an inevitable consequence of the housing bubble, Gennaioli and Shleifer recognize the central role that contingency played in the crisis and its aftermath.

Gennaioli and Shleifer’s second important contribution is to show that “crises of beliefs” like the one that precipitated the disaster of 2008-2009 are deeply rooted in human psychology, so much so that we will never be free of them. Thus, neither prudential policies nor crisis-response measures should treat these occurrences as flukes or one-off exceptions. Crises of belief are manifestations of a chronic condition that must be managed.

Thus, central banks and fiscal authorities should not use the end of a crisis as an excuse to step back or to take their hands off the wheel. When fundamental beliefs have shifted permanently, one should not expect the same policy mix that supported full employment, low inflation, and balanced growth before the crisis to do so afterwards. Moreover, the seeds of the next Kindlebergian sequence – displacement, optimism, enthusiasm, crash, panic, revulsion, discrediting – have already been sown by the very policies that were needed to address the last downturn.

The third reason why Gennaioli and Shleifer’s book is important is more technical, and applies directly to the field of economics. Economists have long recognized that requiring one’s representative agent to hold rational expectations of the future tends to produce models that are profoundly inapplicable to the real world. But, until now, no alternative approach has ever gained any traction. Gennaioli and Shleifer’s investors-as-triage-nurses framework shows great promise for being considered alongside other model-building strategies.

For a decade now, people have been looking for a silver lining to the disasters of 2008-2018, hoping that this period will bring about a more productive integration of finance, behavioral economics, and macroeconomic orthodoxy. So far, they have been searching in vain. But with the publication of A Crisis of Beliefs, there is hope yet.

 

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Whom the Climate Bell Tolls

Posted by hkarner - 10. September 2018

J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

Those living large in temperate zones across the Global North might like to think that a warming planet is an inconvenient, costly, but ultimately manageable problem that need not affect their current standard of living. Yet, to believe that, one must be prepared to write off the rest of humanity.

BERKELEY – Scarcely had I begun my first lecture of the fall semester here at the University of California, Berkeley, when I realized that I was too hot. I desperately wanted to take off my professorial tweed jacket.

A tweed jacket is a wonderful but peculiar costume. If all you have for raw material is a sheep, it is the closest thing you can get to Gore-Tex. Not only is it perfect for a cloudy, drizzly climate, it is also surprisingly warm – wet or dry – for its weight. In the world before central heating, the wool fabrics now most commonly associated with male formal and semi-formal attire were both effective and comfortable, regardless of whether one lived in Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Bristol, or Norwich. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The Destruction of the Republican Party

Posted by hkarner - 8. Mai 2018

J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

There can no longer be any doubt that America has an unhinged, unqualified kleptocrat presiding in the White House. Nor can there be any question that the Republicans who put him there may be sealing their party’s fate as the manifestation of Trumpism, rather than traditional conservatism.

BERKELEY – It has been one and a half years since Donald Trump was elected to the US presidency, so now is as good a time as any for Americans to take a deep breath and contemplate their broken political system.

To be sure, the United States has not experienced any major catastrophes, even though massive policy mistakes always seem to be looming on the horizon. But the country has been suffering a death by a thousand cuts, leaving it weaker and poorer the longer Trump is in office. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Donald Trump Is Playing to Lose

Posted by hkarner - 7. Februar 2018

J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

After a year in office, US President Donald Trump’s approach to policymaking has been nothing if not bizarre. Whereas past presidents have sought the middle ground in an effort to develop effective policies and win re-election, Trump seems dead set on antagonizing the majority of Americans who did not vote for him.

BERKELY – America certainly has a different kind of president than what it is used to. What distinguishes Donald Trump from his predecessors is not just his temperament and generalized ignorance, but also his approach to policymaking.

First, consider Bill Clinton, who in 1992 was, like Trump, elected without a majority of voters. Once in office, Clinton appealed to the left with fiscal-stimulus and health-care bills (both unsuccessful), but also tacked center with a pro-growth deficit-reduction bill. He appealed to the center right by concluding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had been conceived under his Republican predecessors; and by signing a major crime bill. And he reappointed the conservative stalwart Alan Greenspan to chair the US Federal Reserve. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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America’s Broken System

Posted by hkarner - 8. Dezember 2017

J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

The tax-reform bill that US Republicans are attempting to implement is economically indefensible and blatantly unfair. But the US has a much deeper problem: the Anglo-Saxon model of representative government is in serious trouble, and nobody seems to know how to fix it.

BERKELEY – The tax bill that US Republicans have doggedly pushed through Congress is not as big a deal as many are portraying it to be. It is medium-size news. The big news – the much more weighty and ominous news – lies elsewhere.

Of course, medium-size is not nothing. If the tax bill does clear its final hurdle – a conference committee must reconcile the Senate-approved bill with that of the House of Representatives – and become law, it will complicate the tax system considerably, as it opens many loopholes. It won’t have any impact on economic growth – positive or negative – but it would have an impact on the government’s finances, causing revenues to decline by the equivalent of about 1% of national income. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The New Socialism of Fools

Posted by hkarner - 8. August 2017

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Public Spheres for the Trump Age

Posted by hkarner - 5. Juli 2017

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Where US Manufacturing Jobs Really Went

Posted by hkarner - 4. Mai 2017

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Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Problems

Posted by hkarner - 4. April 2017

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Rethinking Productivity Growth

Posted by hkarner - 4. März 2017

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